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The 15-Seconds Blog

  • Excessively Secret Service

     For an organization reluctant to draw their weapons, the Secret Service has been shooting itself in the foot a lot recently.

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    The Washington Post is reporting this evening that the man who jumped the White House fence ten days ago penetrated even farther into the executive mansion than previously known.

    The story was ugly enough when originally reported.  Originally it was said that Omar Gonzales, an apparently unbalanced man with a knife, jumped the fence, made it across the north lawn, through an unlocked door, and into the White House entrance hall where he was quickly subdued.

    Press accounts today say that in fact Gonzales made it through the entrance hall, down a cross hall, overpowered a Secret Service officer and into the East Room.  He was apparently tackled just outside the Green Room.

    For the better part of a week, the Secret Service has been telling reporters that the man was wrestled to the ground just inside the door. If the Post is right — those reports were grossly misleading.

    The latest accounts also say that intrusion alarms were either turned off or turned down at the request of White House ushers.

    When asked about today’s reports the Secret Service declined to comment because of the”ongoing investigation.”

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    To make matters worse (for them) Secret Service Director Julie Pierson is scheduled to testify Tuesday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

    We doubt she will be able to take cover behind the “ongoing investigation” dodge — and pointing fingers at others like ushers is a losing tactic too. The main focus at the hearing, rightly so, will be on the operational failure of the Secret Service — but Pierson should be held to account about her agency’s inept communications practices as well.

    What in the world was the Secret Service thinking when putting out a misleading story? Perhaps they convinced themselves that putting out the full story would only inspire copy cats. But the facts were bound to get out. Apparently they have.  And the Secret Service credibility is now shot.

  • You Don’t Know Bowe – 5 Steps to a PR Debacle

    The White House wanted to get the Veterans Administration mess out of the headlines in the worst way.  It looks like they found it.

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    National Security Advisor Susan Rice

    Eric Shinseki owes a debt of gratitude to Bowe Bergdahl.

    We’ll leave to others the merits of the deal  (swapping five Taliban prisoners in GITMO  for U.S. soldier who had a penchant for going walkabout.) But as a PR exercise the exchange has been an unmitigated disaster.

    Here are just a few of the lessons that can be learned from this classic “how not to do it” demonstration.

    • They created a false narrative.  Somehow the White House convinced itself that this was an unalloyed good news story — the kind of development you trot the President out in the Rose Garden to celebrate.  A quick read of the classified files — or a quicker read of the open press would have told them not to oversell the swap as a great victory. Instead spin overtook sense.

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    • They didn’t arm their spokespeople  with bulletproof talking points.  Instead they allowed National Security Advisor Susan Rice to go on a couple Sunday shows and declare Bergdahl (someone whose colleagues believe was a deserter) to be someone who served with “honor and distinction.”
    • Then they failed to admit a mistake.  Instead of walking back those remarks they elected to essentially say that Bergdahl served with honor and distinction up until the point he might have gone AWOL so get over it, and…
    • They doubled down on dumb yesterday having Rice to an interview with CNN (video below) in which she tied her comments on Bergdahl with her previous Sunday show smashup regarding the attacks in Benghazi. (Note to Rice:  take Sundays off in the future).
    • They introduced a negative. To make matters worse – in tying Benghazi to Bergdahl, Rice invoked her inner Nixon by unnecessarily inserting a negative into a response.  Rice’s “I am not a crook” moment came when she said: “I regret that the information I was provided (regarding Benghazi) was wrong, that I delivered to the American people. That doesn’t make me a liar.”